It's not everyday that the editorial board of a newspaper writes something as thoughtful and fair as what the Columbus Dispatch ran this Saturday.
In the midst of such an emotional and complex debate as de-funding Planned Parenthood, where both sides deeply and passionately believe what they believe, true dialogue can seem completely out of reach. Yet the Dispatch's Saturday editorial provides a careful framework for dialogue - one that both acknowledges the plausibility of de-funding Planned Parenthood and the need to maintain funding for vital women's health services.
No, the editorial does not cleave one way or the other on the abortion debate. But it does clarify the misleading nature of much of the rhetoric coming out of Planned Parenthood.
Such levelheadedness as what the Dispatch is showing to this issue should give us hope that, yes--there are people left who seek to have a deeper discussion about abortion than one that treats being pro-life and caring for women's health as mutually exclusive ideas.
Lawmakers have a duty to ensure women’s health care maintained
If the Republican majority in the Ohio legislature is determined to defund Planned Parenthood, then it should take steps to make sure that women won’t lose out on vital services.
Planned Parenthood, long a political lightning rod because it provides abortion as well as some health-care services, stands to lose more than $1.3 million in state funding. But these dollars will remain at the Ohio Department of Health, to be awarded to others, including the many community health clinics and county health departments across the state.
The bill does not specifically name Planned Parenthood, but that agency is the obvious target, especially as other states have moved to cut its funding following the release of secretly filmed videos this summer showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing how to best harvest fetal body parts for a price.
House Bill 294, in the works before those videos emerged, passed that chamber on Wednesday. A similar version, Senate Bill 214, passed that chamber last month.
The House measure has bipartisan sponsorship, by Reps. Margaret Conditt, R-Liberty Township, and Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland.
Patmon, who said his research into Planned Parenthood’s origin as a supporter of eugenics made him greatly uncomfortable, noted that African-Americans have 40 percent of abortions, nearly four times the percentage of Ohio’s black population.
“If you look at it, it seems as though we are accomplishing the eugenics goal,” Patmon said.
Statehouse debate is predictably fierce.
Listen to Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life: “This summer, Planned Parenthood painted a stunningly gruesome portrait of their abortion business. Bipartisan pro-life leadership is key to ending these crimes against humanity.”
Or to Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, who said in a statement: “With their decision to vote to defund Planned Parenthood, they have stripped women and men across Ohio of the critical reproductive-health services, as well as education and community-based prevention programs.”
This is misleading. The bill doesn’t take away a single dollar from these services. It does, however, prevent the Ohio Department of Health from contracting with any agency that promotes or performs elective abortions.
Proponents of Senate Bill 214 and House Bill 294 point out that many of the community health centers and county clinics are miles closer to rural women. And they offer a broader array of health services. For instance, a young mom coming in for a gyn-ecological problem or birth control also might be able to have her children vaccinated.
The bills also do not stop all of Planned Parenthood’s public funding. The state provided about $3.7 million to Ohio’s 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in the most recent fiscal year.
This includes $2.4 million from federal Medicaid reimbursements, which will continue. Planned Parenthood may, of course, also receive private donations.
The bigger problem, if both bills pass in December, will be to ensure that women can continue to find services. Planned Parenthood has done a terrific job of branding itself; women know where to turn.
Patmon said it will be up to community health clinics to get the word out. (An online locater is at findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/#) But, as he notes, with a $2 billion rainy-day fund, the state should be able to find a way to help get this done.